New York Construction Deaths Increasing, Caused by Safety Violations
A new report shows that construction deaths in New York are on the rise. The construction fatalities, which are frequently caused by falls, disproportionately affect Latino workers. The findings also shed light on safety violations, showing that employers who fail to comply with safety laws cause construction worker deaths. The report also showed that non-union construction sites are especially dangerous for workers. The January 2017 report, released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), is titled “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.”
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The report found that construction deaths in New York are increasing, and that the construction industry remains dangerous for workers. From 2006 through 2015, 464 construction workers died on the job in New York State. The report notes that fatalities are “trending upward”. Falls are the leading cause of construction site deaths, accounting for 49 percent of construction fatalities in New York State and 59 percent of deaths in New York City.
The risks are greater at non-union construction sites, the report shows. In 2014, 80 percent of construction deaths occurred on non-union sites; the following year, 74 percent of fatalities were at non-union sites. The report also found that non-union sites had double the amount of safety violations compared to union sites in 2014.
Among construction sites inspected by OSHA in 2014, two-thirds (68 percent) had safety violations. Furthermore, penalties for these violations are small. Safety violations were heavily related to construction deaths. In fact, the report states that nearly all fatalities occurred with employers who were violating health and safety law. Among construction death sites inspected by OSHA in 2014, 87 percent had safety violations; 90 percent of fatality sites were found to have violations in 2015.
Construction deaths disproportionately affect Latino workers, the report states. Although only 30 percent of construction workers are Latino, they accounted for 57 percent of deaths in 2015.
The report also found that employers who commit wage theft were more likely to violate health and safety regulations.
Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH commented on the findings in a Jan. 18, 2017 press release, stating “We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State. These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80% of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities—57% in 2015; and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions,”
Legislation, Recommendations to Protect Construction Workers
In light of the findings, NYCOSH made several recommendations to protect workers from construction site accidents and deaths. Among other things, the organization calls for more training to prevent common injuries and fatalities. The report advised OSHA 10 or equivalent training for all New York City construction workers; the 10-hour program educates workers on the most common construction site dangers. Currently, OSHA 10 is only required for workers on buildings 10 stories or larger or with footprints greater than 100,000 square feet. For large construction sites, workers should be required to undergo apprenticeship programs, the report said.
The report also highlighted several pieces of legislation focusing on construction worker safety, and called for them to be defended and extended. The New York Scaffold Safety Law, for instance, holds building site owners responsible for construction accidents caused by unsafe conditions at elevated worksites. The report calls for the act to be preserved.
Additionally, NYCOSH wants the following pieces of legislation to be passed: The Construction Insurance Transparency Act (requires insurers to publicly disclose information about premiums), The Elevator Safety Act (ensures elevator work is done safely by licensed workers) and Criminal Contractors legislation (which seeks stricter penalties for employers who violate safety laws, preventing worker death due to negligence).
NYCOSH is also calling for new enforcement strategies addressing safety and wage violations. Additionally, the findings fuel the need to proactively protect Latino workers from construction site accidents.
Questions about Filing a Construction Site Accident Lawsuit?
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a construction worker accident lawsuit, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).